Moundsville Camp Grounds

Submitted by Phyllis Slater.

The Moundsville Journal of August 18, 1924, gives a history of the Camp Grounds by James A. Sigafoose. Camp meetings were held in the Flats of Grave Creek in 1787, and were held regularly at the area known as the Moundsville Camp Grounds from 1824.

In 1847, the Wheeling District of the M.E. Church held a 10 day conference. Some people came from Wheeling on a small steamboat owned by Captain Dillon; others came in wagons in which they slept, and the townspeople occupied muslin tents. Water was obtained from the famous "Old Wolf Spring" near Parrs Run, which was later destroyed when the coal mine was opened.

The Wheeling District Camp Meetings Association was incorporated in 1874, leasing 28 acres from William and Ellen Alexander, purchasing the ground in 1882. The people worshipped "in the open" under the shade of old trees, having logs or boards for seats and straw under their feet. In 1886, James Bodley constructed a splendid auditorium for worship, seating 2500 people and later built another for meetings of the Prohibitionists. In later years, a 20 room hotel, summer houses, a lake and cottages were built. Transportation was arranged by special trains and steamboats for the vast crowds who attended. Some came in June and made it their home for the entire summer. Many pioneer names are listed in records of the Association: Alexander, Bodley, Riggs, Tomlinson, Lancaster, Bell, Jepsen, Booher, Shellhase, Roberts, Smith, Hood, and many others.

Famous evangelists were brought to the meetings; Rev. Sam Jones, Gideon Martin, T.B. Hughes (father of two Bishops), Joseph Smith, Lynch, Dr. Cushing, James Dolver, Bishops Thoburn, Hamilton, Anderson, and Joyce. Swayed by the message, converts were walking over the backs of benches, shouting "I am Free" - Methodists, Presbyterians, Baptists, and even Episcopalians and Pentecostals.

In one of the morning sessions at the testimony of a number of Christians, a woman talked and talked as only an inspired woman can. The leader admonished her very kindly not to consume too much time. Later he said: Sister, do you think it's fair for you to consume all the time when so many others wish to speak?" She gave him one good look and said, "I got up at 4 o'clock this morning, milked four cows, got breakfast for four men, washed the dishes, dressed and hitched up, and drove nine miles to come to this camp meeting and tell the good that the Lord has done for my poor soul and I am just bound to tell it." The good bshop said: "Well sister, if you have done all that, you just go on and tell it." That started the revival, then and there.

During the Civil War the Camp Ground served as a drill field. It was the camp site for the famous Mulligan's Brigade which came to Moundsville and planted cannons on the Mound to meet the Confederate soldiers reported to be coming from the east.

During World War 1 the Moundsville Chapter of the American Red Cross held a special Day there, with the following active officers - Rev. H.G. Gaunt, Fred L. McMillen, Sebasteen Rafferty, Chas. A Showacre, Mrs. E.M. Bottome, Mrs. Vera Newman, Miss Marie Pauley, Mrs. C.E. Woodburn, and Mrs. O.F. Covert.

After World War II, the Camp Ground Association sold the lots to the cottage owners who previously had leased them and the Wheeling District Camp Association was disbanded in 1950. The hotel and recreation area were deeded to the Wheeling District of the Methodist Church, which used it for summer youth camps, for a blind camp, and later by the House of the Carpenter for children from Wheeling.

Source: History of Marshall County, West Virginia, 1984